LAS VEGAS A tie-down roping showdown featuring its past two world champions in Fred Whitfield and Cody Ohl has stolen the show at the 45th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
On Friday, it was Whitfield's turn to take his second victory lap and another step toward defending his world title and claiming his seventh overall.
Whitfield (Hockley, Texas) roped and tied his calf in 6.9 seconds just one tenth of a second shy of the arena record to win Round 8 of the Wrangler NFR in front of 17,986 fans in the Thomas & Mack Center.
More importantly, he reclaimed the top spot in the Jack Daniel's World Standings with just two days remaining in the world's premier rodeo. After the 10th round Sunday, world champions will be crowned based on annual earnings.
Whitfield leads Ohl, who didn't place Friday, by $11,211.
While Whitfield put himself in position to claim the gold buckle on Sunday, bareback rider Will Lowe clinched his first world title. The 20-year old and second-year cowboy can't be caught with his lead of $65,936 with just two rounds and the aggregate payout remaining. Three-time Canadian bareback riding champion Davey Shields won the round with an 87-point score on Beutler & Son's Smokeless Commotion the three-time PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year.
While Lowe put the bareback riding race out of reach, others got one night closer to world titles.
Six-time and reigning world team roping champions Speed Williams (Amarillo, Texas) and Rich Skelton (Llano, Texas) tied for third place in Round 8 and further extended their leads in the heading and heeling standings. Williams holds a $52,000 advantage in heading, while Skelton has a lead of $48,000 in heeling.
The teams of Tee Woolman (Llano, Texas)/Kyle Lockett (Ivanhoe, Calif.) and Daniel Green (Oakdale, Calif.)/Kory Koontz (Sudan, Texas) shared the go-round title with 4.0-second runs.
Bull rider and 1996 World Champion Terry Don West (Henryetta, Okla.) maintained his lead of $42,000 in the world standings. No one in the top six had a qualified ride in Round 8. Fred Boettcher (Tomah, Wis.) took the victory lap by riding Stace Smith's Dippin' Rampage for 87 points.
Reigning world saddle bronc riding champion Glen O'Neill (Didsbury, Alberta) had his lead reduced to $16,000 over Dan Mortensen, a five-time champ. Both placed in Round 8, but Cody DeMoss took the title with 87 points on Powder River's Show Me the Cards Dip.
Rod Lyman (Victor, Mont.), a 16-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, took the world standings lead following a second-place showing in Round 8. Lyman holds a slim $3,000 lead over Teddy Johnson (Checotah, Okla.). Cash Myers (Athens, Texas) claimed his first go-round victory, downing his steer in 3.9 seconds.
Barrel racer Kelly Kaminski (Bellville, Texas), who didn't place, saw her lead trimmed to $21,000. Third-generation Wrangler NFR qualifier Janae Ward (Addington, Okla.) took second place in the round.